Human traffickers targeting OFWs with expiring visas, says BI
Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) with expiring visas are being targeted by human trafficking syndicates who are illegally recruiting them as crypto-scammers in Myanmar, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said Wednesday.
BI Commissioner Norman Tansingco made the remarks following the successful repatriation of two more OFWs from Myanmar last Saturday. The victims arrived in the country via Philippine Airlines from Bangkok, Thailand.
“We have observed that these human traffickers are preying on OFWs with expiring visas, particularly in the middle east, and are enticing them to work as call center agents in Asian countries,” he said in a press statement.
“However we are now seeing that this is a human trafficking scheme, and the victims end up being forced to scam other people and are being subjected to physical torture,” he said.
According to Tansingco, an investigation showed the victims were both former OFWs in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and were recruited by scammers in the Middle Eastern country.
They were offered a salary of P48,000 per month to work as customer service representatives in Thailand and entered the country as tourists in October 2022.
The victims said a foreign escort fetched them using a 4x4 vehicle upon their arrival. They also traveled for 16 hours and stopped on a riverside to ride a boat, and were escorted by uniformed men until they arrived at the company where they were set to work.
It was only then that they found out that they were already in Myanmar, and not in Thailand as they initially agreed. They sought help from Philippine authorities through a former victim who was earlier repatriated, according to the BI.
It is a similar story to the accounts related by rescued OFWS to a Senate committee.
Tansingco reminded aspiring OFWs to apply through the Department of Migrant Workers to be able to legally work abroad.
Last month, eight Filipino human trafficking victims—four of whom were made to work as online scammers in cryptocurrency farms—were repatriated to the Philippines after they were rescued by Myanmar authorities and the Philippine Embassy in Yangon. Among them were four other Filipinos who were held in Myanmar after using an unauthorized route to enter the country. — BM, GMA Integrated News